A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On the river: Check that pile of debris

Written February 16th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The pile of logs and debris at the Albany railroad bridge on Feb. 13, 2022.

Every winter, or so it seems, logs and other debris drifting down the Willamette River pile up against a pier of the Albany railroad bridge. It looks like trouble, but at this point it worries neither the railroad nor the Oregon State Marine Board.

The pile sometimes attracts the notice of people on the Dave Clark Riverfront Path, and recently someone asked me about it.

In 2012, the Portland & Western Railroad hired a contractor to break up an even bigger accumulation of debris against the round center pier of  the bridge. At the time the Marine Board had been worried about river safety, and the railroad was concerned about preventing scouring at the base of the pier.

This week I checked with the railroad and the Marine Board about the current pile, which has built up against the pier closest to the river’s right bank.

“The log jam in question does not pose a current safety threat, particularly given the concrete base structures supporting the bridge,” Tom Ciuba, a spokesman for the railroad, told me. “Portland & Western Railroad (PNWR) regularly inspects the bridge — and all its bridges. It is structurally sound.”

(Ciuba is vice president of communications for Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services Inc., the PNWR’s parent company in Connecticut.)

The Marine Board’s response came from Brian Paulsen, the agency’s waterways coordinator.

“The woody debris accumulation on the railroad bridge is not obstructing the navigable channel and is able to be navigated by recreational boaters at this time,” Paulsen told me in an email. “There is good visibility up and down the river for a boater to change course if needed at this time as well.”

He also said he had checked with the marine patrols of the Linn and Benton County sheriff’s offices, which monitor the situation.

According to Paulsen, the Benton County marine program often cuts the logs in the spring. “It is also worth noting that the bridge owner (railroad company) generally goes through in the spring with a crane and removes the debris.”

Conclusion: On the river, steer around this pile. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. (hh)

A closer look at the debris pile from the bank under the bridge.

3 responses to “On the river: Check that pile of debris”

  1. Billy says:

    Most boaters are aware of the dangers of a snag like that, in white water vernacular a ‘strainer’.

    I’ve been past it a couple of times and while there is potential problems, it is easily avoided and should be. The hydraulics can be tricky.

  2. Barry N. Libbs says:

    Just look at that loitering debris pile. It should be subject to some sort of municipal, civil penalty. Community Service perhaps? Chips on the park trail.

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    Just being “picky” but the river has TWO right sides – depends on which way you are traveling, up stream or down.
    A better word would have been the SOUTH bank.
    Thanks for the up date Hasso.


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